Cold storage isn’t just about storage anymore. Different processors often specify different shelf lives – 90 days for this product and 100 days for that one – and cold storage warehouses must often provide multiple temperature zones for different products. And, when the seasons change, so might the products and the temperatures.
Industries that need cold storage facilities – food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, advanced electronics and others – have many problems to deal with.
Labor costs are high. High turnover, due to rugged conditions, requires constant and costly recruiting, interviewing and training.
Adhering to regulations, labor costs as well as accurately carrying out cold storage has many searching for ways to manage these problems with automation and other tools.
“Cold is hard on people,” says Todd Hunter, senior account executive, integrated systems, with Dematic Corp. “When you get into frozen food storage and minus 20 degree Fahrenheit environments, you have to supply warm clothing and even heaters to enable workers to work.
“You’re always trying to find ways to keep people out of that kind of environment. That’s what automation does.” Automation can solve a host of problems for cold storage warehouse operations. But the benefits come with some costs that cold storage warehouses typically try to avoid.
“In the cold storage world, they don’t like equipment that requires maintenance, and they often won’t try new technology – because you do have to maintain it,” Hunter says.
Cold storage warehouses, compared to everyday warehouses without freezers, record more incidents of product damage, missed product rotations and orders fulfilled with the wrong items.
Two years ago, J.T.M. Food Group needed to design and build an automatic storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) complete with control software, racking and conveying equipment.
The new design needed to reduce time to storage as well as the time allowed for cold to escape the freezer. Dematic helped to implement this new system along with a new Warehouse Control System (WCM) IT Suite.
The results have been everything J.T.M. could have hoped for: The system has reduced energy costs by 66 percent. It eliminated the cost of maintaining freezer forklifts as well as the cost of labor required to operate the forklifts – not to mention damage to products and the warehouse.
– By Michael Fickes